France Excellence Program – Interview


Interview with Jebin, first student going to France through the France Excellence program, We met him (master student at NTU Nanyang Technological University) to get his feedback on his experience in France and his internship with Alstom.


Tell us more about yourself e.g. your course of study, your interests.

Hello, my name is Jebin Selvaraj Sunitha, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Anna University (India) in 2015. I experienced my first internship in the summer following my graduation, for a manufacturing company called Metal Forms Pvt Ltd. I worked with the quality team and was in-charge of analyzing and addressing issues of quality with customers and to ensure a follow up. During this time, I sat for and passed the GATE exam (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering).  I then started looking for a master degree in Singapore or Germany. Due to some financial issues, I decided to continue working for Metal Forms Pvt Ltd. After two years, I joined the Master’s degree program in Mechanical Engineering at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.


What sparked your interest in the France Excellence programme and pursuing an internship with Alstom?

First of all, I applied for this programme because I like traveling and discovering new countries. I have never been to Europe and I am really excited to discover France and the neighboring countries.

I am also looking to discover the working culture in Europe because from my experience, the Indian and Singaporean ways of working are fairly similar.

Specifically, I applied for an Alstom internship as Junior Project Engineer because I want to explore and gain exposure in a field different to mechanical or electronic engineering. And working for a mobility maker like Alstom will be a meaningful experience, to build towards my future.


How were your first months in Paris?  Did you experience a culture shock?  What were the daily experiences that were different to what you are used to and how are you coping / adapting?

I wouldn’t say culture shock because it’s not much different from Singapore. The thing that shocked me is the Paris subway: people walk really fast compared to Singapore and you feel you are in a faster city. The other thing is the food which is more expensive and we cannot find hawker centers.  However, the local dishes are really good.


You told me that you don’t speak French, has the language been a handicap?

I suffered during my early days in France because I had to manage administrative issues such as my bank account, or to talk with the French agency in-charge of my accommodation, and generally settling in to life in Paris. Fortunately, I don’t face such issues at my workplace; everyone speaks English and I feel comfortable to be myself.


What do you think of the France Excellence programme?

I think that this programme offers a great opportunity to get an overseas experience and to discover a different culture. This programme facilitated my internship search and provided me with the opportunity to work in a company of good international standing.


Tell us more about the internship opportunities you are experiencing with Alstom. What do you find meaningful about your role?

Well, first of all, I chose this internship to get a different experience from my past experience which was in mechanical engineering in India.

My work missions are clearly defined and engaging. Being part of the off-shore engineering validation team, I am currently working on the Automatic Train Control (ATC) system for the Thomson-East Coast Line, the latest driverless metro network in Singapore. My role aims to develop software tools to validate the ATC system during its factory testing. Hopefully such tools can also benefit other transport projects.

I am very comfortable working with my team. Initially, I felt quite stressed due to one of my manager. Luckily, my teammates have been very understanding and helpful. This has helped ease me into the role very quickly.


How does Alstom support your professional and personal development?

I really value the team spirit and the social interactions within the Alstom family. Colleagues have a good sense of time management and I haven’t experienced any pressure while staying focused on my tasks at hand. I also appreciate being given the time to acquire relevant skills as some assignments are quite new for me.


Any advice for those planning to work in France in general?

Before leaving for France, I heard from a few people that there were many racists in France but I personally haven’t felt that was the case.  I feel very safe going for walks in the streets. I would probably say that it could even be better if you speak French but it’s not a handicap for me anymore.


Has this experience in Alstom and in France been meaningful for you professionally and personally?

Yes, this experience has been significant towards advancing my professional development. I have developed some software skills, which will help lay the foundation for my future career. Apart from the technical skills, I learnt how important it is to have good interactions with colleagues at work. Because even if we have good technical skills, we won’t be able to fully blossom at work without such soft skills.

I really enjoy this experience from a personal point of view because I realized that I could adapt to different situations and cultures. Even though I encountered some difficulties at the beginning of my stay in France, being able to solve these problems by myself in a different country such as France has strengthened my ability to adapt. Now it makes me want to stay longer overseas, especially in France.

Therefore, I am really thankful to Alstom and the French Embassy for this wonderful opportunity.